“Ladies and gentlemen…Twisted mother fuckin’ Sister!” – Lemmy Kilmister
TWISTED SISTER – Live at the Marquee (2011 Rhino Handmade)
First of all, this thing is huge. There’s a CD in there somewhere.
You already know some of these recordings from the Big Hits and Nasty Cuts CD. In 2011, finally, after numerous B-sides and compilations, the entire legendary Marquee club show was made available on CD from the fine folks at Rhino Handmade. Coming in this beautiful (but fragile) cardboard die-cut cover, this was so long overdue. For a long long time people sank many dollars into collecting as many of these live versions as possible. Few collected all the released tracks, but now the entire show is available. That means you get all those B-sides plus a bunch of unreleased songs from the gig, including all the talking.
From Lemmy’s now legendary introduction to the final notes of “Feel So Fine”, this is Twisted Sister at their absolute heaviest. When I first heard five of these recordings as the “Nasty Cuts” on the Big Hits (1992) CD, they turned me off a bit. They were too heavy. Too fast. Too ragged. Too punk rock. Not what I was expecting from what I considered to be a pop rock band, back then. However, Dee’s rants made this so difficult to turn off! You never know what was going to come out of Dee’s mouth next.
Eventually I realized, this stuff is actually Twisted Sister at their absolute best! They are in their element and in their glory, playing these songs for the fans and also the haters in the crowd that night, whom Dee addresses frequently.
I’m sure the band won the haters over that night.
The recording is crisp, clear, and powerful. It is in your face. It feels like you are right there on that stage with the band. The mix is perfect. The guitars have good separation and the drums are recorded perfectly. The vocals are also clear and only slightly overpowered by the stampeding band.
Personal fave: “You Can’t Stop Rock And Roll”. The crowd had never heard this one before, being brand new and unreleased. Finally I am hearing a version of “You Can’t Stop Rock And Roll” that lives up to the song’s potential. The album version, as great as it is, isn’t as heavy as it was live. This, my friends, is Sister at their absolute best. I’m saying that without a trace of hyperbole. For me, this is it. This is Twisted Sister at their tightest, fastest, heaviest and inspired. The crowd eats it up.
Honorable Mention: “I Am (I’m Me)”, which comes close to the end of the set. Dee’s voice is off on a few notes, but this is rock and roll baby! I’d pay my life savings to be able to sing as well as Dee did that night! (note: my life savings are not much, but I’d pay ’em anyway.)
Dud: “Leader Of The Pack”. It’s just weird to hear it at a show this insane. It kinda slows things down a bit much (even though it’s so much heavier than the Ruff Cuts version).
WE WISH YOU A METAL XMAS AND A HEADBANGING NEW YEAR (2008 Armoury)
Yep, It’s another Bob Kulick album with various guests. You know what you’re going to get. Let’s not dilly-dally; let’s crack open the cranberry sauce and see what a Metal Xmas sounds like.
Generic! A truly ordinary title track features the amazing Jeff Scott Soto on lead vocals, but it’s a purely cookie-cutter arrangement with all the cheesy adornments you expect. Ray Luzier fans will enjoy the busy drums, but this does not bode well for the album.
Fortunately it’s Lemmy to the rescue, with “Run Rudolph Run”, an utterly classic performance with Billy Gibbons and Dave Grohl. All spit n’ vinegar with no apologies and nary a mistletoe in sight. I remember playing this for my sister Dr. Kathryn Ladano in the car one Christmas.
When Lemmy opened his yap, she proclaimed “This is bullshit! How come they get to make albums and not me?”
Lemmy Kilmister, pissing people off since day one, has done it again. You can buy the CD for “Run Rudolph Run” even if the rest is utter shit.
A silly “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” by Alice Cooper echoes “The Black Widow”, but novelty value aside, is not very good. A joke song can only take you so far, and Alice is usually far more clever. (At least John 5’s soloing is quite delicious.) And even though Dio is next, “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” comes across as a joke, too. Which is a shame because the lineup is a Dio/Sabbath hybrid: Tony Iommi, Rudy Sarzo, and Simon Wright. Dio’s joyless, dead serious interpretation is amusing only because of its unintentional dry humour.
Funny enough, Geoff Tate’s “Silver Bells” has the right attitude. Even though Geoff is perpetually flat, his spirited version (with Carlos Cavazo, James Lomenzo and Ray Luzier) kicks up some snow. That makes me happy, but it pains me to say that Dug Pinnick’s “Little Drummer Boy” (with George Lynch, Billy Sheehan and Simon Phillips) doesn’t jingle. Ripper Owens, Steve More & pals team up next on “Santa Claus is Back in Town”, so bad that it borders on parody.
The most bizarre track is Chuck Billy’s “Silent Night”, with thrash buddies like Scott Ian. Chuck performs it in his death metal growl, and it’s pure comedy. Oni Logan can’t follow that with “Deck the Halls”, though it’s pretty inoffensive. Stephen Pearcy’s “Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer” adapts the riff from “Tie Your Mother Down” and succeeds in creating a listenable track. “Rockin’ Around the Xmas Tree” is ably performed by Joe Lynn Turner, sounding a lot like a Christmas party jam.
The final artist is Tommy Shaw with John Lennon’s “Happy Xmas (War is Over)”. It’s an authentic version and while not a replacement for the original, will be enjoyable to Styx fans.
Christmas albums by rock artists are, let’s be honest, rarely worthwhile. This one has only a handful of keepers so spend wisely.
Making mix CDs was a lot of fun (and work). I used to make custom Christmas discs that didn’t suck, for my family and friends every year. Why did I stop? I ran out of good Christmas songs. Let’s face it: unless you’re one of “those” people, Christmas music is nails on a chalkboard. You can only take so much. If you’ve worked retail in the past (or present), you probably can’t take any at all!
2010’s Christmas CD is a good example of what I used to make. You’ll notice there’s no Trans-Siberian Orchestra on there. I used up all their best stuff on the previous instalments. I tried to avoid duplicating songs from previous years although Hawksley Workman’s Christmas album is so good that I made exceptions for him. Hawkley’s Almost A Full Moon is the best Christmas CD that I own, and probably the best one I’ve heard. I bought it twice. He reissued the album after only a year with two extra songs! I forgave him, because Almost A Full Moon is so warm and perfect.
What do you think of the Christmas 2010 CD? Would you have wanted a copy that year?
1. Bill Ward – “Twas the Night Before Christmas”. Yes, that Bill Ward! The Black Sabbath drummer did a spoken word recording of the classic Christmas poem, and I opened the CD with it. I can tell you that when we played the CD at dinner time, this track was a failure. Nobody paid attention.
2. Kathryn Ladano – “Jingle Bells”. I got their attention back by putting on a track by my sister. This instrumental version on bass clarinet is from her CD The Christmas Album. Of note, her Schnauzer Ali is credited for barks on “Jingle Bells”!
3. Lemmy, Dave Grohl, Billy F. Gibbons – “Run Rudolph Run”. This breakneck Christmas carol is done in the Motorhead style. I played it in the car for sis. “This is shit!” she proclaimed. “Why do these guys get to put out albums and not me?”
4. Marillion – “Let It Snow”. This drunken favourite is from 2007’s Somewhere Elf. The spirit is intoxicating, as I’m sure they were!
Found some booze in a flight case, And I’m afraid that we’re all shit-faced, So I guess that we’ll have to go, Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!
5. David Bowie and Bing Crosby – “Little Drummer Boy / Peace on Earth”. This is the David Bowie song that your grandma likes. It’s just lovely. I didn’t own anything with this song on it, so I had to download. That’s why it didn’t appear until 2010!
6. Helix – “Happy Christmas (War is Over)”. Yes, it rocks, but not too hard! Helix covered Lennon for their Heavy Metal Christmas. Singer Brian Vollmer is trained in the Bel Canto technique and he’s more than capable of singing songs for your Christmas dinner in mind.
7. Extreme – “Christmas Time Again”. My mom always liked Extreme, or “Nick Strean” as she thought they were called. This isn’t the greatest Christmas song in the world, but it doesn’t suck.
8. Hawskley Workman – “3 Generations”. Told you there would be some Hawksley. This touching song is about three generations of women in the kitchen making Christmas dinner together.
9. Elvis Presley – “Blue Christmas”. I must have downloaded this one too. I am a bit of a sucker for Elvis. I included Joe Perry’s instrumental version on a previous CD.
10. The Beatles – “Christmas Time is Here Again”. Not one of their best songs, but it’s the Beatles so it had to be included eventually. This version comes from the 1995 CD single for “Free As a Bird”. Relatively few have heard it, and I thought that would get people’s ears perked up, but by this time, the wine was out….
11. Steve Vai – “Christmas Time is Here”. This is from the first Merry Axemas. It’s a lovely track and not too shreddy. Remember this song from the Charlie Brown Christmas special? Steve does it on guitar, of course!
12. Jethro Tull – “God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman”. This funky flute version will get the toes tappin’. Hard to believe that this is from Tull’s final studio album in 2003, The Jethro Tull Christmas Album! It would have been nice to get one more, but Tull’s Christmas Album is a good one to have around. If you need to tolerate Christmas music, you may as well listen to Tull jamming it out.
13. Brian Vollmer – “The First Noel”. Helix’s Vollmer put out a rare charity album in 2005 called Raising the Roof on Mary Immaculate. “The First Noel” is one of the best tracks. Vollmer is the first artist to get two appearances on my CD.
14. Ted Nugent – “Deck the Halls”. Much like “Run Rudolph Run”, this one smokes! It’s a guitar instrumental at full speed. Grandma didn’t like this one.
15. Twisted Sister – “O Come All Ye Faithful”. I really don’t like the Twisted Christmas album. This song was a hit though, and since it’s virtually identical to “We’re Not Gonna Take It”, I can…errr…take it.
16. Cheap Trick – “Come On Christmas”. My sister was a huge Cheap Trick fan at one point. She had this song before I did. Essentially just a Cheap Trick pop rocker with Christmas lyrics. Sounds like classic Cheap Trick to me.
17. AC/DC – “Mistress For Christmas”. I put this song on as the joke it is. I like to remind people that AC/DC did have a Christmas song. “Jingle bells, Jingle bells, jingle all the day. I can’t wait to Christmas time, when I roll you in the hay.” Hey, it counts.
18. The Darkness – “Christmas Time (Don’t Let the Bells End)“. In my review, I said, “Even though the guitars are thicker than a good ol’ bowl of Thin Lizzy pudding, there is no mistaking this for anything but a Christmas song. It is a joyous rock re-imagining of a Christmas carol, with the unmistakable Justin Hawkins falsetto.” Plus, sis likes The Darkness.
19. Jon Bon Jovi – “Please Come Home for Christmas”. I like this one. Fuck off.
20. Jimi Hendrix – “Little Drummer Boy/Silent Night/Auld Lang Syne”. From an EP called Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. Jimi and band jammed out some impressive licks but the dinner party didn’t enjoy.
21. Jim Cuddy – “New Year’s Eve”. Cuddy’s solo debut All In Time is tremendous CD and comes highly recommended by this guy right here. It’s like listening to a Blue Rodeo album, but only the Jim songs. The sentimental “New Year’s Eve” is a lovely ballad that fits right in with the Christmas theme.
22. Bob & Doug McKenzie – “The Twelve Days of Christmas”. You gotta end with a classic. From 1981’s The Great White North comes the big Christmas hit. We used to hear this every single year on my mom’s old clock radio. We’d squeal with laughter trying to sing along. “A beer…in a tree…”
How would you rate this one? Trying to avoid overlap was previous instalments was my Achilles’ heel. I’d swap out a lot of the lesser songs for better ones, but it’s not bad. It’s listenable. It’ll do.
“Politicians make decisions, they’re the ones to blame, so don’t blame me.”— Ozzy Osbourne
OZZY OSBOURNE – No More Tears (originally 1991, 2002 Sony remastered edition)
No More Tears was a big hit for Ozzy and is usually hailed as a “comeback” and “his best album since Randy Rhoads”. But is it?
No More Tears certainly offers chills, thrills and new sounds. Slide guitar on an Ozzy album? Check out “Mr. Tinkertrain”. Zakk Wylde was starting to spread out and grow, really exploring his southern roots and adapting that to heavy metal. No More Tears might be the peak of Ozzy’s collaborations with Zakk, as they really did produce some magic here. Some of the stuff Zakk does on “Mr. Tinkertrain” alone is career-defining.
Ozzy was also trying to escape his “satanic” image, and No More Tears was his step away from that. It’s also a step towards the mainstream. Second track “I Don’t Want to Change the World” is an example of Ozzy’s turn to radio-ready hard rock. It’s a shame because after the chunky guitar assault of “Mr. Tinkertrain”, a speedy metal track like “Don’t Blame Me” would have been perfect in the second slot. “I Don’t Want to Change the World” is unfortunately not much better than a Motley Crue filler track. It’s repetitive and despite Zakk’s squeals and licks, fails to launch. His solo at least scorches hot. Then the whole thing gets stuck in the mud. “Mama, I’m Coming Home” (lyrics co-written by Lemmy) was the hit ballad that I never liked. “Mama” more than any of the other tracks really represented Ozzy’s desire to break free of the shackles of his own image. There are better ballads on the album. “Mama” is so generic it could have been recorded by literally anybody.
Moving past, the album catches a little air due to the groovy chugging riff of “Desire”. The stock melody doesn’t do it many favours, but momentum is restored.
Ozzy did well by discovering his newest member, bass player Mike Inez who later went on to Alice in Chains. Inez was a co-writer on the title track “No More Tears” and his bass line has become a signature hook. “No More Tears” is one of Ozzy’s greatest achievements as a recording artist. This is a direction he should have explored further. Even though it’s incredibly memorable and accessible, “No More Tears” has slightly progressive and psychedelic elements mixed in. Its groove was detuned and modern, but the samples and keys bring it levels above what most other mainstream bands were doing in 1991. And then there’s Zakk’s slippery slide guitar expertise. It just doesn’t get any better than “No More Tears”. Ozzy wanted to move beyond being the clown prince of devilish metal? Mission accomplished and then some, in a completely fearless 7:24. Ozzy was an innovator when he was in Black Sabbath, and in 1991 he became that again on “No More Tears”.
Opening side two, “S.I.N.” is great old-school Ozzy metal. Call it “S.I.N.” or just “Shadows in the Night”, this track has the kind of classic hooks and soaring vocals that Ozzy is so good at delivering. Ozzy had a core writing team of Zakk and drummer Randy Castillo, who wrote this killer. Lemmy stepped in to help out on “Hellraiser” which Motorhead recorded as well on 1992’s March ör Die. “Hellraiser” is too middle of the road to be classic. Even Motorhead’s version kind of sucks.
A stock ballad called “Time After Time” is a tad better than “Mama, I’m Coming Home”. It has some pretty sweet melodies and harmonies going for it, and another brilliant Zakk solo. “Zombie Stomp” brings back the heavy, simply by living up to its name. You got a name like that, you better stomp, and this one stomps like all the beasts in the jungle are coming for you now. It’s also plenty of fun. Surely an underappreciated Ozzy career highlight. Drummer Randy Castillo had a lot to be proud of on this one, as he took the spotlight for the two minute tribal intro. When that’s all over, Zakk powers the groove.
More fun ensues on “A.V.H.” (no idea what that stands for). A little bit of southern pickin’ from Zakk gives way to an adrenaline powered blast. It’s a shorty compared to some of the more epic lengthy songs. Finally “Road to Nowhere” ends the album with a retrospective. “I was looking back on my life, and all the things I’ve done to me.” It’s easily the strongest ballad on the album and one of Ozzy’s personal best. “The wreckage of my past keeps haunting me,” wrote Ozzy in 1991, perhaps not knowing that it always will.
There is no arguing the importance of the song “Mama, I’m Coming Home” in the career of Ozzy. It went top 30, and was huge on MTV. Would No More Tears be a better album without it? Should Ozzy have released it as a single or on a movie soundtrack? Try this. Remove “Mama” from the album, and put the B-side track “Don’t Blame Me”* in between “Mr. Tinkertrain” and “I Don’t Want to Change the World”. There is something to be said for a good B-side, and Ozzy has done a number over the years. Yet “Don’t Blame Me” is far too good for that fate. It combines riff with groove and hooks like nothing else on the album, and just listen to Zakk’s funky pickin’. Fortunately it’s on the 2002 Sony remastered CD, along with a lesser B-side called “Party With the Animals”. You might remember it from the 1992 soundtrack Buffy the Vampire Slayer. “Animals” is definite B-side material.
Back to our original question. Was No More Tears the “best album since Randy Rhoads”? It’s quite good and easily his biggest since Randy Rhoads. But it has filler, and some of that filler is downright annoying. The remastered edition is the one to get, since you don’t want to miss out on “Don’t Blame Me”. Bark at the Moon is likely the high water mark since the passing of Rhoads. No More Tears is still one to own, even if you have the hits, for some killer and underrated album tracks (and one B-side).
* Two early album titles used for this record were Don’t Blame Me and No Dogs Allowed.
ERIC DANVILLE – The Official Heavy Metal Book of Lists (2009 Backbeat Books)
“Official”? How the hell does anyone claim to publish an “official” heavy metal book of lists? Maybe by getting Lemmy Kilmister to write your forward, perhaps? That will do for a start. Using the KISS font and putting a great illustration on your front cover always go a long way to looking “official”. That “parental advisory” stamp in the corner is the final touch.
This book is tremendous fun. I generally don’t go for “list” books. Mrs. LeBrain bought this book for Christmas one year, because she thought it looked cool. Always grateful, I gave it a shot. You will always have your own favourites to add to any list, but this book isn’t really like that.
These lists are far more entertaining, interesting, and page-turning than “top 10” this or that. For example:
The PMRC’s infamous “Filthy 15” songs and their ratings.
15 metal bands who got their name from J.R.R. Tolkien. I for one didn’t know that Burzum was an Orcish word for “darkness”. (And yes, Marillion is on this list.)
Oderus Urungus’ 10 sickest things to ever happen at a GWAR show. A fan in excruciating pain because he got his hair caught in Beefcake the Mighty’s tuning pegs had to have it cut on stage.
8 heavy metal songs the government has used to torture prisoners at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay. “Enter Sandman”? Really? Do terrorists hate the Black album too?
19 unlikely heavy metal pairings. Unfortunately, I do remember when Lil’ Kim appeared on Tommy Lee’s first album by Methods of Mayhem.
9 non-metal artists who do a song called “Heavy Metal”. Miles Davis!
12 people who found themselves on the business end of Sharon Osbourne. Elton John tried to bed the same man as Sharon, so she drove to his house, shit on his driveway, and then smeared the shit all over Elton’s Rolls.
Then there are lists assembled by people that some may have heard of. A porn director named Matt Zane lists 25 metalheads who were in porn movies. Twiggy Ramirez is somebody I never want to see naked. Then porn star Jasmin St. Claire lists 20 reasons that metal dudes and metal girls are so hot. Sasha Grey lists her 16 favourite metal albums, and she has some heavy tastes (she loves Rollins).
The book is rounded out by fun caricatures by Cliff Mott. He makes it pretty easy to identify the rock stars he’s depicting. Lemmy kind of looks like Lemmy no matter how you draw him.
As I mentioned in an earlier chapter, I had once explored the world of piercings. It was a part of record store culture and I’ve since moved on, but I did make many friends in that world.
One of those friends was Lemon Kurri Klopek, who I also mentioned earlier. Lemon Kurri was the bass player for the Niagara Falls based punk band, The Legendary Klopeks. Through the magic of the internet, Lemon Kurri and I befriended a guy named Sarge, “the best piercer in all of southern England”. Sarge came to visit Canada on a couple of occasions, and in fact helped the Klopeks play their first overseas gigs.
Sometime in the 1990’s, Sarge opened his shop, Metal Fatigue, in Bournermouth. His reputation grew and he became quite successful. “I can’t move in my local rock nightclub for people the shop has pierced, the running joke is about the scrap value in titanium every Saturday night!” said Sarge.
On one of Sarge’s visits, I had the chance to witness his work up close and personal. And not just something standard like an ear or nose piercings, I had the chance to witness a really unusual one.
A local girl had seen Sarge’s clavicle piercing on the internet and was interested. It’s a very unusual piercing that involves going underneath the collarbone. Yes, underneath. There’s a piece of jewelry made of flexible plastic and two metal balls, and that’s how it’s done. Sarge was one of very few people who did it. This girl eventually emailed Sarge about getting one done, not realizing he lived across the ocean. However, Sarge was planning on coming and visiting his Klopek friends that summer. The Canadian could have her clavicle piercing after all.
It was quite a sight to watch. “The clavicle piercing (under the collar bone) is probably my ‘trophy’ piercing now, its really dangerous,” says Sarge. “If I hit anything untoward, someone may die. I have had loads of criticism from various piercers for even thinking about doing one. Saying that, I have now done 8 and they all love them so much! I have stopped doing them now, as we are into unknown territory, watching them heal, working around possible problems with them. So far everything has been hunky dory.”
I still have some pictures from that day. The gentlemen in the photos are Lemon Kurri and Sweet Pepper Klopek, the bassist and singer from the Legendary Klopeks. I have no idea why Sweet Pepper is all bruised in the face. With them was a Scottish chap named T-Bone who took photos. And of course Sarge and his client! And Sarge’s boots.
Sarge, T-Bone, some girl
Sweet Pepper, Lemon Kurri, Sarge & T-Bone
Lemon Kurri & Sweet Pepper
Lemon Kurri & Sweet Pepper
Sweet Pepper & Sarge
clavicle in action
To get us back onto the subject of music, Sarge tells a great story of some rock encounters in his travels across the pond.
“I met Jon Anderson from the band Yes when I was working at a hotel once! Had a beer with him after work, he was doing some book signing thing, I think I still have his autograph somewhere, he signed a copy of a (Yes cover artist) Rodger Dean art book for me!”
But my favourite story involved his meeting with one of rock’s most notorious frontmen.
The year was 1986. Sarge was out at the bar. Although he had no way of knowing, Philip Lynott from Thin Lizzy had died that day, and the bar was playing his music in tribute to the fallen rock hero. Sarge, however, was not a fan. When he openly criticized the music of Thin Lizzy with some choice words, a large man with “bad teeth, long black hair and a low gruff voice,” told the young Sarge to fuck off. This was Sarge’s first and last meeting with the infamous Lemmy Kilmister!